Pharmacy snub?


While the Health Minister decided to get his flu jab at the GP this year, AMA Vice-President Dr Tony Bartone says flu vaccination by pharmacists is “a second-best option”

Health Minister Greg Hunt received his flu vaccination from Dr Brian Morton at Northbridge Medical Practice in Sydney last Thursday, along with the announcement that 2017 influenza vaccines were now available across the country.

“I urge all Australians to consider getting a flu shot this year,” he said.

“Flu shots are available now at general practices and other vaccination providers. They’re also available for purchase at many pharmacies.

Greg Hunt gets his annual flu jab at the general practice.

Minister Hunt paired the announcement with a reminder that flu vaccinations are free of charge to those at high risk of contracting influenza through the National Immunisation Program.

“This is something for all Australians, to save lives and to protect lives. It’s what we do under the National Immunisation Program and it doesn’t hurt. I’ve got to say Brian has hands of silk,” he said.

“Influenza vaccines are age-specific, so ask your doctor about the best vaccine for you or your child’s circumstances.”

Minister Hunt has previously stated that the availability of vaccination by trained pharmacists across Australia, particularly in rural areas, “greatly assists” the community’s access to protection against the flu.

“In conjunction with the Government-funded National Immunisation Program (NIP) for at-risk people, extending the availability of flu vaccination through community pharmacies is a very welcome addition to our fight against this debilitating disease,” he said.

However Australian Medical Association (AMA) Vice-President Dr Tony Bartone said on Tuesday that flu vaccinations by pharmacists are “a second-best option”.

“If there was an adverse reaction in the retail space it would be challenging at best and very problematic at worst,” he told the Canberra Times.

“It is an extremely safe process but we run the risk of overlooking and over-simplifying something that does carry a very low but inherent risk.

“It is about ensuring the best possible standard of care is applied rather than an acceptable or passable standard of care,” said Dr Bartone.

Pharmacy academics insist that pharmacist-administered vaccinations are just as safe as those administered in a general practice, in addition to being a more convenient option for many Australians.

“Many patients said that they would not have been vaccinated if they couldn’t have gone to a pharmacy (including some who knew they could receive it free through the GP) because it was more accessible to them and convenient through their local pharmacists,” Professor Lisa Nissen from the Queensland University of Technology has told AJP.

“This is not about where and who provides the service – it’s the fact that all health professionals should be working with each other to improve vaccination rates and spread the message about the importance of vaccination, particularly for our higher risk groups.”

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia’s 2017 Flu Vaccination Study also found more than six million Australians would be more likely to have a flu shot if it could be administered at a local pharmacy, including two million who previously had no intention to vaccinate against flu.

“For community pharmacy to encourage an extra two million Australians into having a flu shot this year, is testimony to pharmacy’s recognition as a trusted health centre,” said Guild National President George Tambassis.

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